[SIGCIS-Members] History of Open Source

Thomas Haigh thaigh at computer.org
Sun May 18 14:25:08 PDT 2014

Hello Scott,


The IBM SHARE software library of the mid-1950s is both earlier and a better
parallel with the practices associated with today's open source software
efforts. This included a source dissemination mechanism, standards for
coding and machine configuration, mechanism for bug reporting, creation of
ad-hoc volunteer groups, etc. This is discussed in the classic A. Akera,
"Voluntarism and the Fruits of Collaboration," Technology and Culture, vol.
42, no. 4, October 2001, pp. 710-736.


However, I think you would need to step back and pick a meaningful
definition of "open source" before you try to follow this question further.
On a literal level the distribution of open code is older than the
distribution of closed code (i.e. executable without source). For one thing
it took several years for programmers to adopt high level languages and
symbolic assemblers and thus create an important difference between the two.
It's also true that plenty of pieces of commercial code were distributed
with source in the early days of software products and bundled software. But
if we read "open" as "FLOSS" in this question then it's still true that the
free exchange of code is much older than the commercial licensing of code.


So, to be honest, the meaningful question is really "What is the first
appearance of closed source." 


Best wishes,




From: members-bounces at sigcis.org [mailto:members-bounces at sigcis.org] On
Behalf Of Scott Guthery
Sent: Sunday, May 18, 2014 2:41 PM
To: members at sigcis.org
Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] History of Open Source


In re the history of computer science:


A candidate for the first appearance of open source might be Algorithm 1.
QuadI by R.J. Herbold of NBS which appeared in the February 1960 issue of
the Communications of the ACM.


Might anyone have suggestion for an earlier candidate?


Cheers, Scott


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